Gaucho Pride and Prejudice



I could not help but stand in shock as the game went on: tortillas were being thrown onto the field, chants including the words “olé” and “puto” were yelled out to cheer on our team and the image of our “Gaucho” was on t-shirts all around me. This was at UCSB’s first soccer game of the year against Westmont College — a game that would start the year with a bang. I knew that something was amiss with this picture. Having dinner at home with my parents, I told them about what I witnessed at the game and they were utterly surprised by the misconception of cultures.

“A gaucho is commonly defined as a resident of the Pampas, the fertile South American lowlands. Gauchos are found primarily in parts of Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Chile, and Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil,” says the UCSB Official Athletics website. Since the definition is correct, why is it that our school mascot is so falsely portrayed?

The last time a South American saw a tortilla could have been in a Mexican soap opera. And having been to both Argentina and Brazil, I can guarantee you that they are not served anywhere. For your tortilla fix, you would need to travel pretty far north. The food that many people relate to Spanish-speaking cultures is not typically the correct one. Argentineans, for example, eat lots of pasta, pizza, empanadas, steaks and a wide variety of European dishes as a result of the large migrations that occurred in their country.

As for the chants, two different issues arise. The first is that “olé” is a cheer with origins in Spain, used for when the bullfighters performed well, according to Time Magazine. Therefore, it is not from Central, North or South America, but rather from the other side of the world. The other word, “puto,” chanted with pride every time the other goalie throws the ball back into play, presents another problem. I couldn’t believe my ears when people around me were yelling the word “puto,” the South American equivalent to “faggot.” Unable to believe what I was hearing, I asked for clarification on the chant. While some people indicated that they were yelling “punto,” as in “point,” many were still yelling the similar derogatory term without knowledge of what the actual word meant.

And lastly, there is the image of the gaucho with a mask that only the Zorro could pull off. The mask is not only more of a fictional representation of the masked character, but it is also a reference to a Mexican “Robin Hood” named Joaquin Murrieta who lived in the mid-1800s. Once again, there is no connection to the Gaucho of South America.
It appears in the end that the UCSB’s Gaucho has some serious identity and culture issues. For some reason, UCSB decided that it could blend in Spanish and Mexican flavor into a strictly South American figure. But this issue goes beyond the mascot itself — it is representative of our university and nation. It appears that our nationally and internationally recognized university has some difficulty distinguishing between the many different Hispanic cultures, which each have their own unique identifying characteristics. This problem moves onto a national scale, with people unable to distinguish between the many Oriental cultures, an Arab from a Muslim, a Jew from a Zionist, a Nicaraguan from a Mexican, and most of all, a South American from a Spanish-speaking North American. Sadly, our educational system teaches us to appreciate and accept diversity, but in general we are not taught to understand it.
Ultimately, our definition of diversity is counterproductive: when we allow all of the cultures to melt together, they become recognized as a homogeneous mass.

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9 Responses to Gaucho Pride and Prejudice

  1. Thomas Reply

    February 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    The culture of the Gauchos is not represented at UCSB. Neither is the culture of the Trojans represented at USC, or the Aztecs at SDS, or Beavers at Oregon State, or Cougars at Washington State, or Bears at UCLA, or (put in any mascot name at any School). The History lesson is good for everyone. But, if you feel things are not correct……..Please tell us of a name that you would like for the school and let us put that name to the test.

  2. nicole Reply

    January 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    This article’s point is not to bash our school traditions. Matthew is making the point that we blend cultures without realizing it. He makes a great point because as a society we dont understand other diverse cultures even though we pretend to.

  3. Zoe Reply

    January 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I love this article! It totally brings up valid points! We attempt to be a diverse and socially aware school yet they are things we do do not reflect that at all.

  4. JM Reply

    January 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    This article is great in that it is straight forward and to the point. I don’t think the author of the article is trying to completely overhaul all of the traditions of UCSB soccer. Rather, it seems he is simply trying to make everyone aware of the common misconceptions that come with Argentina and its culture. I for one was completely unaware of the Argentian way of life, and I now realize the inaccuracies of the way the Gaucho is presented here at UCSB. I think we could all use a lesson in the various cultures around the world so we may identify them individually, rather than by the region in which they’re located. Most importantly, we should be working towards a more accepting and aware society, not one that abandons all attempts to be politically and culturally correct, as MK suggests.

  5. SP Reply

    January 22, 2011 at 9:47 am

    To MK and Gaucho:
    Read the definition of Oriental from the diccionary:

    “often Oriental Of or relating to the countries of the Orient or their peoples or cultures; eastern.
    Oriental Of or designating the biogeographic region that includes Asia south of the Himalaya Mountains and the islands of the Malay Archipelago.”

  6. MK Reply

    January 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    “Matthew Gluschankoff is a first-year environmental studies major”

    Gaucho…give the guy a break for using the word “oriental”. He is just a freshman, by the time he graduates from college he will either ease up on the whole “political/cultural correctness” mentality OR he will become more anal and write his graduate thesis on how the society should be more like him.

    A word of advice kid, have fun when you attend those soccer games. If you want to change the chants that they use, come up with funnier and culturally correct chants.

    hehehe oriental….I choked on my rice while reading that. Classic Daily Show material.

  7. UCSB Tennis Reply

    January 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Good article. I actually went to Argentina last summer and it was awesome. After going to a few soccer games there, I can assure anyone that the “ole” chant was not heard anywhere. I was actually shocked to see how Argentina really is. To be quite honest, I was expecting more of a Mexican culture, but man was I wrong.

  8. Ester Reply

    January 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Great article and straight to the point. I’m Argentinean born and raised. The thing about the UCSB Gaucho, the Ole chant, and the tortillas throwing always struck me as culturally misleading. To the contrary of Gaucho’s comment, I don’t believe that any Latin American would feel proud of having their culture falsely portrayed.

    And to Gaucho, if you don’t know what to throw at a gaucho, don’t give the silly excuse that steaks are expensive. Just don’t throw anything.

  9. Gaucho Reply

    January 21, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I suppose if you wanted to be completely accurate you’d have the students throwing steaks onto the field to reflect the true cultural roots of the Gaucho. I’m afraid that’s a tiny bit out of my price range, but I’ve always liked the idea of tossing Cow Poly’s favorite industry into their face.

    Our soccer culture is a hodgepodge of various other soccer supporters: most of our cheers come from the English Premier League. The Ole Chant is rooted in Spain’s supporters section and has been emulated the world over. Everything that you see at a game is an organic development of years of student collaboration and innovation. It’s a cultural fusion that I’m pretty damn proud to be in the stands for. It might not be traditionally accurate, but so’s using the term “Oriental”.

    What matters in the end is that we’ve done something that every Latin American team would be proud of. For several years running we’ve shattered attendance records with one of the largest and most creative student fan bases in the US. Every time the Mexico Fans come out for when their national team comes to play in Harder Stadium our chants bring chuckles and knowing smiles. One culture that I’m proud to be a part of is the one that forms in the stands.

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